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The Moat House, Acton Trussell, Restaurant Review

Moat House Restaurant, Acton Trussell

Moat House Restaurant, Acton Trussell

The Moat House, Acton Trussell, Restaurant Review by Philippe Boucheron who enjoys a most entertaining Tasting Menu.

Really good restaurants are said to combine gastronomy with a sense of theatre.  At the Moat House, Acton Trussell – near junction 13 for Stafford on the M6 – chef Matt Davis and his brigade make sure that their dishes have all the starring roles.
It is not everyday that I enjoy a leisurely lunch luxuriating in a quite exceptional Tasting Menu, especially one with a glass of well-chosen wine to accompany each of the six delicious dishes. The handsome restaurant, set in a conservatory beside a canal with the Motorway in the middle-distance, is an excellent setting for foodophiles to practice their skills.  Pristine white table cloths set with gleaming glasses and stylish Robert Welsh cutlery provide the stage on which the drama is to be played. The lilies set in the slim clear glass table vases adding their own gentle perfume.
At the cry of ‘Overture and beginners please’ in the kitchen my amuse bouche was served.  The purpose of this small ‘gift from the chef’ is to excite the taste buds for what is to follow. Pleasing on the eye and delightful on the palate, the small dish of beetroot mousse set on a beetroot purée with a tiny deep-fried Ragstone goat’s cheese bon bon certainly set the scene for what was to follow.  The mousse enshrined the essence of the beet without a trace of its rather rustic roots. The texture and pungent aromas of the bon bon added their own dimension while the purée extended this theme. Ignoring the glances of other guests I unashamedly used my excellent home-made olive bread roll to mop up the remnants of the sauce; it was far too good to leave on the plate!


The first act, so to speak, was chef Davis’s renowned signature dish
– A large lobster and salmon ravioli topped with Avruga caviar with tiny squares of rhubarb and vanilla jelly. The beautifully balanced flavours and textures were brought into bold relief by the glass of Spier South African Sauvignon Blanc that Ian Hogarth, the enthusiastic young sommelier served me.  The true beauty of Cape Sauvignons, particularly those from around Stellenbosch, is their good manners; none of the flinty character of Sancerre or New Zealand’s in-your face gooseberry pie.
Ian’s arrival with a glass of golden Sauterne could only herald one thing –foie gras. This is a dish that I do enjoy, but preferably the well-rounded tones of livers from greedy ducks that stuff themselves silly rather than the over-rich product of force-fed geese. It was in fact a glorious pan-fried duck liver, topped with some Avruga caviar, set on a bed of wilted bok choy. A truly classic combination that was made even more memorable by the 2005 Château Haut-Berganon, that has to be among the best of the non-classified Sauternes. This rich luscious wine had a superb apricot, honey and spice nose with just a hint of caramel. It flooded the palate with lingering flavours of apricot, honeycomb and spice.   In every sense a dish worthy of debate by true epicureans.
Foie gras is always a difficult act to follow, but few things do it better than pan-fried scallops. The Moat House style is to add a tiny piece of chicken wing and set them on a bed of white beans all topped off with a touch of truffle foam. The sommelier choice of an Alsace Riesling got my taste buds racing in anticipation; but alas the 2008 Keuhn just lacked the rich flavours and glorious complexity that one expects from Alsace, that I love and consider to be the finest dry Rieslings in the world.
The entre-acte was provided by a most unusual sorbet made from locally grown rhubarb. It was a most gentle palate cleaner that cleared the decks, so to speak, the second half.  Words alone cannot do justice to the magnificence of the perfectly cooked slices of filet of local Staffordshire beef, accompanied by the spears of local asparagus cooked al dente,  topped with a foie gras ravioli and set on a St Emilion jus.  It was a fitting homage to the dish first created by the French maitre chef  Antonon Carême for his great friend, the composer and gastronome, Gioachino Rossini.  Young Ian’s choice of red wine got his spurs back with a vengeance; it was quite my most favourite red from The Argentine, Paccual Tosos 2009 Malkbec. A gentle giant of a wine, from Mendoza that was aged for 12 months in a combination of both French and American oak barrels.  Round and inviting it is packed with ripe, almost sweet fruit that married perfectly with the man-sized flavours of the beef and foie gras.
The final offering from the chefs Pâtissieres was a chocoholics wildest dream come true. A chocolate fondant filled with the most succulent dark Valrhona chocolate that flowed out when the case was opened, served with a cocoanut ice cream.  It sounds simple enough, but the purity of the flavours really made this very naughty, but awfully nice, dessert stand out.  Once again sommelier Ian Hogarth came up trumps.  It is so terribly difficult to find a wine that actually goes with chocolate: perhaps a twenty year old Tawny Port or an almost antique multi-puttonyos Imperial Takaji from Hungary. But Ian’s suggestion of a glass of Andrew Quady’s Californian black Muscat Elysium seemed to confine the almost overpowering chocolate within a frame of sweet Muscat grape flavours.
A cup of piping hot pungent black coffee was a most fitting conclusion to a quite exceptional meal that was so much more than the sum of its individual parts. Although each dish was a masterpiece, the composition of the menu, the way in which it built up to a chocolate crescendo of Beethoven proportions, made the whole experience one of true theatre.  Priced at £50.00, with £30 for the wines, a group of true foodophiles could spend a wonderful evening sharing the delights.  And since the Moat House wine lists includes two of my most favourite growers’ Grand Cru champagne – Bernard Launois’s crisp blanc-de-blanc and his son-in-law, Benoit Margux’s outstanding Ambonnay rosé, they could even enjoy the perfect aperitif.

(C) Philippe Boucheron on behalf of ETM 2011/12

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